Sustainable Heating: What Are The Options?

The average household in 2020 generated 2690kg of carbon dioxide from space and hot water heating¹. If we are to reach the UK Government’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, we need to reduce this to just 140kg per household. This 95% reduction might seem unattainable, however there’s a lot you can do to make your home more energy efficient, reducing your carbon emissions and saving yourself money on your fuel bills.

Ways You Can Conserve Energy While Heating Your Home

Making some simple changes around your property can make a big difference to both your carbon emissions and your energy bills. While some of the following may come at a cost, they make up for it in terms of the money you can save on your heating bills, and they have the potential to make your home more valuable.

Use Your Boiler Effectively

Check your boiler’s settings. You only need to have your boiler on the highest setting in the Winter, otherwise it is needlessly heating water to a very high temperature, and wasting valuable energy.

All modern boilers – whether combi boilers, system boilers, or heat-only boilers, are condensing boilers. This means they recover more heat from the exhaust flue gas and use it to heat the central heating water.

Your boiler is condensing if:

  • The flue is plastic
  • The boiler has a plastic pipe coming out of the bottom, through the wall and into a drain
  • If it’s a gas or LPG boiler installed after 2005
  • If it’s an oil boiler installed after 2007

It is important to ensure the temperature of your condensing boiler is not too high. A water temperature of 70°C on the boiler should ensure it condenses. Condensing boilers are at least 10% more efficient than old style boilers, but they will only reap the efficiency benefits if they are able to condense. However, if you have a dirty or poorly balanced system, this will impact on the return water temperature and your boiler’s ability to condense.

Adjust Your Thermostat

It might seem obvious, but the hotter you keep your home, the more money you’ll spend heating it. Your annual heating bill increases by about 10% for every degree you turn the thermostat up². Turning the temperature down will therefore save you money, and will also reduce the carbon emissions of a typical home by about 300kg a year for every degree the thermostat is turned down.

If you have a room thermostat, check the positioning. Room thermostats work by sensing the air temperature in the room, switching the heating on if the temperature falls below the thermostat setting, and switching the heating off when the required temperature is reached. Ensure your room thermostat is positioned away from any hot appliances, such as the boiler, and that the air flow isn’t blocked by curtains or furniture.

Look At Draught-Proofing

Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save money and energy in your home. Blocking up any gaps around windows, doors and the floor will ensure it takes less energy to heat your home.

For windows that open, try installing draught-proofing strips. For windows that don’t open, use a silicone sealant. Fitting thick, lined curtains will also help keep heat in your home throughout the night.

Draught-proofing your external doors can stop a lot of heat from escaping. Some simple options include installing a keyhole cover, using a letterbox flap and brush and installing draught-proofing strips around the edges of the door.

Check The Condition of External Walls

Good general property maintenance is vital in sustaining an energy efficient home. Ensure you check and resolve any issues in a timely manner, including leaking guttering and cracks in the render.

Thanks to the UK’s often miserable weather, cracking on exterior cladding is quite likely. If your cladding starts to show signs of cracking, it is vital to get it repaired quickly. When water gets into these cracks and starts to freeze and melt, it expands, and the crack will continue to grow and will eventually reach the roof, guttering and internal walls – making it more costly to heat your home.

Climbing plants may look pretty growing up the walls of a home, however they can do vast amounts of damage. They can drain the walls of moisture and dislodge masonry, move tiles and create holes, and even disrupt underground foundations causing major structural damage. Not all climbing plants are damaging – some safe options include hydrangeas and honeysuckle.

Consider Smart Devices

Smart home technology can help you cut your energy use. Smart meters measure how much gas and electricity you are using, and help you visualise your energy usage. Every home and office in England, Scotland and Wales will be offered a smart meter by mid 2025. Smart meters ensure that your energy supplier has an accurate reading of your energy use and only charges for what you actually use. It’s also easier to reduce your consumption when you can easily see and understand how you’re using energy.

Modern LED light bulbs are much more energy efficient than their traditional counterparts, and opting for smart LED lights can help you save more energy and money. Smart LED lights can be turned on and off with a quick tap of an app, can be programmed to a schedule and can often be dimmed, ensuring you don’t waste energy lighting rooms inefficiently.

The Energy Saving Trust advises that you can save around £55 per year by completely turning your appliances off when you aren’t using them³. Smart plugs allow you to switch off appliances at the wall with just a quick tap of the app, making it easier to ditch standby mode for good.

Utilise Underfloor and Wall Insulation

Wall insulation is an effective method of reducing the amount of energy needed to heat your home. Many UK homes built before 1930 have solid walls, made using a single layer of bricks. According to government research, by the end of December 2020 only 9% of solid wall homes had been insulated. Uninsulated walls allow around one third of the warmth pumped into a home to leak out. For solid wall homes, external wall insulation can help lower heating costs and your carbon footprint.

If you have cavity walls, properly insulating them can save energy and cut your heating bill costs. Many cavity walls can be insulated by injecting insulation materials into the cavity. You should be able to make back the installation cost in five years or less due to the annual energy bill savings you will make.

You should also consider insulating your ground floor and any floors above unheated spaces (such as garages) as you could be losing a lot of heat through them. Insulating under the floorboards can save you around £75 a year in an average property, and up to £130 in a detached home⁴.

Check the Condition of Old Doors and Windows

Homes lose 10-20% of their heat through windows and external doors⁵. Installing energy efficient double or triple glazed windows and high thermal performance doors will reduce heat loss, keeping your home warmer and helping to reduce your energy bills.

Some simple improvements you can try if you aren’t ready to upgrade your windows and doors include sealed blinds and heavy lined curtains. If you live in a listed building or conservation area, shutters and secondary glazing can also be good alternatives.

Have you noticed steam or condensation inside your double glazed windows? This means there are gaps in the glass pane, through which heat will escape. Before you replace the entire window, check with a specialist to see if just the failed pane can be replaced.

Eco Friendly Ways to Heat Your Home

Home heating is one of the most polluting sectors in the UK. A small, terraced house with a well insulated loft and a modern gas-fired boiler will produce around 2.75 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – which is the equivalent of flying to Rome and back 11 times⁶. It doesn’t have to be this way – you can keep your home warm without being so damaging to the planet. So, if you’re a homeowner and want to cut your emissions, what are your options?

Heat Pumps

A heat pump works by moving heat from outdoor air, water or underground and pumping it inside your home. There are 3 main types of heat pump:

  • Air source heat pumps
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Hybrid heat pumps

Heat pumps themselves produce no carbon emissions, but they do need electricity to run. The idea is that they use less electrical energy than the heat they produce.

Heat pumps are much safer than systems that are based on combustion, and can be cheaper to run than oil, gas & LPG boilers. However, they are difficult to install and you will experience significant disruption to your home and garden. They can also be very costly to install, and some of the fluids used for heat transfer are of questionable sustainability⁷. You may also need planning permission to install a heat pump.

To achieve a comfortable level of warmth with a standard heat pump, many homes will also need to install larger radiators, upgrade pipework, and improve insulation. High temperature heat pumps are an alternative option, however these are more expensive to fit and less efficient than low temperature models, and the external units are even larger.

High Heat Retention Radiators

High heat retention radiators, also known as storage heaters, work by using storing heat generated from cheaper overnight electricity inside ceramic or clay bricks and releasing it during the day. Modern storage heaters are generally better insulated than their predecessors, and usually come with more advanced controls, making them more easily programmable.

Storage heaters can be a cheaper way to heat your home if you’re using a cheaper nightly tariff, such as Economy 7. Installation is usually quite simple, as there’s no pipework or boiler required. Heat is released throughout the day regardless of whether or not it is needed, and often most of the stored heat will be released by the evening, so you may find your home gets cold in the later hours. High heat retention radiators are often heavy and bulky, and take up more floor space than other radiators. They are also not ideal for asthma sufferers, as they produce a dry heat.

Electric Radiators

Electric radiators are becoming a popular choice. They are usually easy to install, low maintenance and perfect for radiating and convecting heat. They are often available with smart controls, meaning you get 24/7 temperature control. They are often space saving compared to other heating systems, and don’t negatively affect your home’s air quality. When used in conjunction with a zero carbon electricity tariff, your heating will be carbon free.

Heat Your Home with Northwest Heating Solutions

Northwest Heating Solutions are specialists in ultra-modern and efficient electric heating. We’re proud to be a Which? Trusted Trader for our high standards of customer service, value and quality, and our NAPIT accredited installers work to a no mess, no fuss policy when fitting your stylish new heating system.

ELKATHERM® lead the way in quality German engineering. Their electric radiators use a super dense ceramic fireclay core, into which the element is directly embedded for rapid heating of your home. They stay warm for hours with minimal additional power, meaning more warmth for your money and greater control than traditional storage heating. ELKATHERM® electric radiators use a massive five times surface area to provide superior radiated heat and spread convected warmth around the room, ensuring you aren’t left with cold spots. There’s no need for a noisy fan, so you won’t get uncomfortable dry air associated with other forms of electric heating. Once your ELKATHERM® electric radiator is up to temperature, it will typically draw between 15 and 17 minutes of electricity per hour to top up the core and maintain your cosy home.

Our heating systems put you in control. You can control each room individually, selecting the times and temperatures to best suit your lifestyle, and ensuring you don’t waste heat in rooms you aren’t using. We offer a range of control options, including our latest smartphone app which allows you to control your heating remotely.

Our ELKATHERM® electric radiators also come with a 4-year guarantee for electronic components, and a massive 25-year guarantee for the internal heat core. They are completely VDE approved and LOT20 compliant.